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Paper Mache as a Sensory Activity for Autism

Paper mâché can be used to provide sensory input to a child with autism. The process of tearing paper, making paste out of glue and water and mixing the torn bits of paper into the paste helps the child experience varieties of sensations. Thus the activity can be fun as well as therapeutic for the child.


For those of you who are trying out the activity for the first time, visit this page to learn how to go about doing paper mache’.


Some paper mâché projects which you can try with your child are:

  • Rings
  • Bowls
  • Shaped objects
  • Face masks etc

While doing this activity with a child with Autism, you may face some  challenges. The activity may be too long for the child. The child may like to eat the glue. Some children may not like the sensation of  the glue water paste and may refuse to do the activity.

Here are some ideas that may help…

Reducing the time:

Rather than large objects, you may choose smaller objects like a coin, ring box etc as your base object on which you do paper mache. Another tip would be to use flat objects as they require paper on just one side.

Safety :

If your child has a tendency to put the paste in their mouth, create the paste using flour and water. This makes the activity safer for the child. Read here about how to make different types of home made paste mixtures.

Sensory Therapy

Some children with autism may not tolerate the sensation of glue on their fingers. One option is to substitute glue with a flour and water mixture. Another option is to soak cooked rice in little water, and mash it to use it as a paste. You can also experiment with home made glues, as that will give you the ability to try different textures. Another solution is to allow your child to use gloves or a brush to spread glue.

To use this activity as a therapy to increase tolerance to glue, or similar textures you can allow the child to keep a mug of water nearby and wash their hands every 2 minutes and slowly increase the time.

Paper mache is such a great activity for sensory therapy because the child is involved in the “fun” aspect of the activity and can sometimes forget about the uncomfortable sensations. Start with small and simple projects and decorate them with paint or glitter.

I hope these ideas have inspired you with creative ways to try out paper mâché projects with your child. Do share your experiences with us.


Sarah is an Occupational Therapist and a new member of our writing team. Read more about her in the “Our Team” page.

3 comments to Paper Mache as a Sensory Activity for Autism

  • lola

    Initially this sounds like a great project for an autistic/ASP child. But as mentioned, the tactile sensation of the paste and the wet paper may be detrimental to the touch sensitive child. I would have preceded this lesson with another less sensory activity and build up to the paper mache idea.

    Remember to keep it simple. VERY simple. Even a regular developmental child will find this very frustrating to work with. This is more of a 5th grade and up “use of materials” idea.

    Also, be SURE to use art supplies with the AP symbol on them. If you want to see what that looks like, check out Crayola crayons. They always have the safety symbol on the box that says they are not toxic for children. Do not use supplies that lack this symbol.
    It’s not unusual for a K-2 child to “test” the glue either. Your art teacher (and you do have an art teacher in YOUR school, right?) should be able to enlighten you on art curriculum. Not eating paste/glue is an objective for K.

    dolores, Mentor Art teacher K-12 25+ yrs.

  • Stef

    My 4 and 5 yr olds loved this.. We blew up a balloon and made and moon nightlight

Leave a Reply to Stef Cancel reply

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